Thursday, December 04, 2008

Ephesians 2:14-18

14For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in His flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Paul has made it clear that physical heritage is meaningless when it comes to spiritual truth (v11). He has revealed what does matter about our past, our spiritual status in relation to God without Christ (v12); we saw there that apart from Christ, we had no Savior, no citizenship in heaven, no covenant promises to hold dear, no hope, and ultimately, no God. And of course, the good news that we in Christ, who were once far off, have been brought near through the blood of Christ came in v13. All of that was applied to Gentiles. But now in v14-18, Paul restates his wonderful news from v13 in more verbose terms and from a slightly different angle. He includes Jews in this great news as well (“our”). He’ll elaborate on the union that Christ has brought to His people. Galatians 3:28 again rings true: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Strange as it must have been to the world around them, Jew and Gentile were united in these local Christian congregations, to whom Paul was writing. And in our lifetime, we might consider the Berlin Wall episode. Ronald Reagan gave a speech on June 12, 1987, calling for General Secretary Gorbachev to open the Brandenburg Gate, which separated democratic West Germany from communist East Germany. The Jew/Gentile relations may have been like the Cold War. But just a few years later, the wall came down and Germany united. Ronald Reagan played a big part in that, but he wasn’t the only man. However, only One Man brought down the wall of hostility (v14,16) – the separation in Temple worship – between Jew and Gentile, the Man Christ Jesus. And Paul focuses on Him in this passage, and how He brought peace where it was thought to be impossible.

Paul begins v14, “For He Himself is our peace.” He is the peace that brings Jew and Gentile together! In v13, Paul announced with the words “brought near” a peace with God that all in Christ now have through His blood (Romans 5:1). But another benefit, besides the all-important peace with God that believers experience and cherish (v16), is peace with one another. We don’t often, if ever, deal with these implications, but many believers do. These Ephesian believers certainly dealt with it. I love what Calvin adds here, paraphrasing Paul: “If the Jews wish to enjoy peace with God, they must have Christ as their Mediator. But Christ will not be their peace in any other way than by making them one body with the Gentiles. Therefore, unless the Jews admit the Gentiles to fellowship with them, they have no friendship with God.” The peace that Paul mentions here is the Old Testament concept of shalom. It’s not just the end of hostility between us and God, or between us and other believers. It refers to total well being, spiritual and physical, temporal and eternal, and Paul is saying Jesus alone gives that kind of peace.

There are a great many people groups out there in our fallen world calling for peace. It’s not happening. Why not? Martin Luther said, “It is due to the perversity of men that they seek peace first, and only then righteousness. Consequently, they find no peace.” In other words, they want peace, but they don’t pursue it in the right place. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). When we find righteousness in Christ, we find peace. If only the world would stumble upon Christ, instead of stumbling over Him (Romans 9:32-33; 11:11; 1 Peter 2:8).

Now Jesus brought peace. We learn that in v14. But how He did it (v15-18) has implications for how we live and worship and fellowship. V15 says that He abolished the law in His flesh. Paul is saying that Jesus, by the cross, abolished the divinely established enmity of the ceremonial law. God had established the ceremonial law to delineate the boundaries of His people, to keep them distinct from the world, to keep them from following after the ways of the world and thinking like the world. But that ceremonial law had also pointed forward to Jesus Christ, who would give true peace. And on the cross He completed His fulfillment of the ceremonial law, and thus abolished it, obliterated it for His people and created a new people that was not strictly Jewish, but was made up of all kinds of people – one new man, one new people.

Calvin says, “Paul declares not only that the Gentiles are equally with the Jews admitted to the fellowship of grace, so that they no longer differ from each other, but that the mark of difference (circumcision, sacrifices, washings, abstaining from certain foods, etc.) has been taken away; for ceremonies have been abolished” (Colossians 2:14). Interestingly, the early Christians called themselves “the third race.” They weren’t Jews; they weren’t Gentiles. They were something new that God had made “through the cross” (v16): the new Israel, the Church. Vincent Cheung notably points out, Galatians 3:29 states, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Because I belong to Christ, I am a seed of Abraham, and inherit all that God promised him. So when preachers call the Jews “God’s people,” they are either contradicting Paul, or they must be talking about me.” This is something that dispensationalists, who are opposed to Covenant, or Reformed, Theology, don’t seem to grasp in their flawed thinking.

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